Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Stoke City Potters and the Toothy Draw

photo by lightscripturevia PhotoRee

It's only week four, but we sense some doubts have been raised in Correspondent's Scott's hopes for a Liverpool victory parade at season's end:

At the Britannia Stadium last Saturday, Liverpool showed why most commentators believe they will challenge for fourth place at best, and only their fans believe they have a chance at the title.  But even this fan’s hope has taken a beating after a loss in the type of game they need to figure out how to win.  Forget the vaunted Stoke defense and the particularly parsimonious play of Asmir Begovic in goal – when you dominate a game from start to finish and spend most of it camped out in the opponent’s half, you need to win.  And you don’t do it by blowing breakaways and missing untended goals….

With Andy Carroll and newly-signed Craig Bellamy on the bench, Kenny Dalglish’s squad faced Peter Crouch’s new team on a blustery British Saturday.  But the crisp breeze did nothing to focus play at first, as both sides were sloppy with passes and seemed to be playing a game of hot-potato rather than keep-away soccer.  Not only was the play sloppy, but so were the challenges – which occasionally bordered on comical.  To wit, Martin Skrtel literally had to unravel his hand from Ryan Shawcross’ shirt after defending a corner in the 10th minute.  But the chuckles trailed off (at least for the traveling Liverpool contingent) when Jamie Carragher was wrong-sided in the box by Jonathan Walters in the 20th minute, and tried unsuccessfully to hide his clutching from the ref.  The resulting penalty marked the only shot on goal for Stoke City during the game and one of only three shots in total by the Potters; this compares to 24 shots by Liverpool, 7 of which were on goal. (Ed. Note: Just think about this statistic for a second.)

Unfortunately, the only statistic that matters in the end is the score and it was not meant to be for the Reds.  With that one penalty conversion and stifling defense thereafter, the wind whipping about the Brittania must have been that which was taken from the sails of Liverpool’s start to the season.  The reds seemed unable to find a rhythm with the candy stripers flitting all about and causing them to play in fits and starts.  Almost every shot was under pressure and frustration began to set in toward the end of the first half, manifested by Luis Suarez’s toothy scowl.   Which is why it was not surprising when Henderson seemed to get an earful of the Uruguayan equivalent of “WTF!?” when he failed to immediately return a pass.

The first ten minutes of the second half was all about a determined Liverpool trying to pick the lock of an equally determined Stoke defense.  So well-organized and solid was the Potters' back line, augmented by midfielders and forwards alike when needed, that not even a 62nd minute fusillade of shots by Jordan Henderson and Charlie Adam could break through.  The glorious break away opportunity that started said fusillade was ingloriously squandered by Henderson, who was replaced by Bellamy in the 67th minute.  But neither he nor Andy Carroll, who also came on, could effect any difference in the game.  The final 15 minutes of the game saw Liverpool pressing relentlessly and the open goal missed by Suarez in the 95th minute was a bitter yet apropos finale to a frustrating day.

It’s only one game, but after starting the season in such promising fashion and with the Manchester clubs devouring their opponents, Liverpool needs to win games like this, regardless how well the opposition’s defense plays.

This is farlieonfootie for September 14.

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